Leaving school, we enter a world full of uncertainties and often feel unprotected- suddenly, we lose the routine and protection the school environment offered us. After turning 18, we stop receiving the child support grant, making our whole household more financially vulnerable and we feel the pressure to find work.
Right now, being young in South Africa means we face heavy social burdens. We more often experience violence and assault and many of us struggle with substance abuse and mental illness. Worse yet, it is often during this vulnerable time in our lives that we are also most isolated.
Without the right support, job-seeking can impact our mental well-being, our self-confidence, our relationships and even our physical health.
According to our research, one of the biggest disadvantages we face as young people is the lack of social capital – this means that there aren’t enough people in our network we can ask for support, career guidance, resources and advice. One of the solutions is to create a support system that can help us Grow our Circles.
The team at SAYes Mentoring knows that mentoring can unlock the power of young people.
Who is SAYes?
SAYes design, deliver and support mentoring programmes for youth in transition. All SAYes Mentorship programmes provide mentor-mentee matches with scientifically credible interventions to improve mentee independence and well-being. In the workplace context, interventions are ultimately aligned with core government priorities such as developing priority skills, ensuring sustainable access to the economy, and/or accelerating enterprise development in a value chain.
We asked Sandrine Tshikuna about her experience with SAYes and their mentors. She matriculated in 2014 at Voortrekker High school and followed her passion for food by pursuing a Diploma in Hospitality and Catering Services at False Bay College. After the 18 month- theory course, she was busy with her workplace –based learning at Knead Bakery coffee to be able to graduate for her diploma.
Sandrine and her mentors from SAYes.
What is it like to have a mentor?
I am originally from Congo. During my 11 years in a foreign country without my parents, I am very happy to say that SAYes mentoring programme played a big role in my life the 7 years I met my 6 mentors, each and every mentor in the SAYes mentoring programme played a big role in my life. My six mentors are not just my friends but have become my family and I have lots and lots of respect for them. They are the people I can always run to and look up to as role models. Between my mentors and I, we have a transparent relationship with no secrets as that’s the only way I could be helped.
What are the challenges in finding the correct mentor?
From the beginning it was challenging to find a mentor who had the same ideas, interests or background/ experience in what I wanted to do as a career path; however, as times went by I learnt that knowing someone with different experience and skills is the best way that opens wider range of opportunities in how to build my own personal development as a person.
How does your mentor support you in school and life?
The only way that a mentor is able to help me, is for me to be open and be honest with her. Share with her what it is that I want to achieve during our mentoring session. And it’s through resources, dedication, commitment and communication that we are able to reach the goal that are set either long or short term.
Does having a mentor help you connect with new experiences and opportunities?
Yes, when I first joined Knead in November 2017 I thought my position was just being in the kitchen as a chef, in February 2018 I got sent to another branch to help out for 6 months. When time was up, I was offered a permanent contract- the contract was already prepared but I refused to sign it by asking for a valid reason. I confided into my mentor wanting to know how to approach the matter. So she encouraged me to express myself and tell them what I wanted to achieve during my time there; without sounding rude I spoke my mind and to my surprise the manager agreed. I started going to work on my days off or use my free time to sit with the Stock Controller or with staff in the confectionery section to learn new skills. After five months of doing so, I was chosen to take over the position and I became a Stock Controller supervisor. But my manager had bigger plans and mentioned my name at the head office and after a year I got transferred again and I was promoted to Administrative Clerk which is my current position in the company.
Does having a mentor help you with career guidance?
I had to transfer to a new school that didn’t have economics as a subject so I had to choose another subject which was hospitality. I was worried as I didn’t have any idea what the subject was about and I was struggling with English too at the time. My mentors assisted me with doing research; I took extra English classes and SAYes set me up with a qualified chef and a three- day job shadowing at Vineyard Hotel, visiting guest houses. Learning from professional and listening to the stories of people who worked in the industry opened up my mind. This is when I decided that I wanted to follow hospitality as a career and that’s what I studied and can’t wait to hold my diploma soon. But during this pandemic, I have been laid off and my mentor has encouraged me to make use of my cooking skills by creating my traditional Congolese dishes and advertise them on social media and that’s what I have been practicing to do.
Read our annual publication, Shift, and find our how mentoring can bridge the gaps young people face when transitioning from school into a workplace.